The words ‘girl’ ‘ladies’ and ‘chicks’ should be held in high regard. Look at the empowerment groups such as Skate Like a Girl, Girl’s Not a Four Letter Word, ChickSticks, GrlSwrl, GirlsShred, Sisters Evolution, and Withitgirl. These were created with a mindset that says, We are here too. ~Lil, founder of Ladies Shred 2023
Back in 2012, I was on my way out of high school. My momma was pressing me about ‘real world experience’ she thought I could use a taste of a paycheck, maybe a reality check. While cruising in my ole Dodge a friend and I were discussing potential places for me to work and as we were passing Proof Lab, she said “You should work there, think of all the surfer and skater boys we could meet.” We were 17 years old and boys were the top priority. I put together a practically blank resume and sent it in. After two weeks, when I didn’t hear back, I went to check in and got hired on the spot. The staff had “misplaced” my resume and deemed me a shop sweeper at The Station. It was the first time I had applied for a job and I was told through my network of friends it was a well-known difficulty to get hired there. Here we are, I had achieved the impossible and quickly made my way into The Shop.
Skaters have a knack for defying physics and it’s irresistible. I started skating while working at Proof Lab. I’d say it called to me immediately. The feeling was euphoric and the slams, oh the slams. I adored them. I was in it. Head over heels. I wanted the camaraderie I saw the boys have, *but make it femme,* I sought out a time to host a women focused skate night at Proof Lab on Friday nights from 6-9 pm. The results were different. I had hoped to gather some femmes my own age but was instead gifted something greater. A bunch of fiery little girls and thus began Ladies Shred. After a couple of years hosting skate nights, and teaching lessons (and a few birthday parties), I launched Ladies Skate Camp. I saw the importance of creating a safe space for girls and those who don’t fit in. I have always seen myself as a misfit, no matter how hard I tried to fit in.
By 2015, the first round of camps had been successful and it meant a lot to the girls who joined. I was 20 years old, bold as ever, I also had a lot to learn. Ladies Shred started to become larger than me and honestly, that was terrifying. Stepping into entrepreneurial territory is not simple, it’s filled with self-doubt and fear. I needed to take a step back and place Ladies Shred on pause. I worked for a few other businesses and picked up some essential skills from other influential teachers in my community. For the next couple of years, I continued to host camps and lessons while holding down several other jobs. It was exhausting, and by 2017 I made the decision to move abroad to Australia indefinitely. It was bittersweet. On the one hand, I was leaving my community behind, and on the other, I was headed for a new adventure. I was in my wild child phase. I needed a restart and I got it. I worked in hospitality. Surfing and skating were back to passion and not responsibility.
However, Ladies Shred kept calling and it was time to come back home to continue where I had left off. By the time I returned, Covid restrictions were in place. Ladies Shred was not able to host skate nights due to park closers and rules concerning public gatherings. It was bleak, however, as the restrictions started to lift, we were back at it and have continued to build our community to the present.
At times I question if holding a space for only girls is for the good of my community. Will it be taken wrongly; will it show exclusion instead of empowerment? I have come to see that having an alternative place to be yourself is important. Weird, funny, wild, loud, fierce, quiet, independent, but most of all finding the camaraderie. I am always learning about inclusion and will never reject anyone from joining.
Surf, skate, create camps, women’s retreats, skate nights, and community are what you can find with Ladies Shred. These days it’s all about lifting each other up and bringing in more coaches to promote the vibes.
Lilja's Playlist for withitgirl!
Lilja Merrill is the founder of Ladies Shred Skate, Surf, and Art Camps. She was raised and Northern California and is currently traveling and getting her Yoga certification in Bali.
All photos courtesy of Ladies Shred! Photo of Lil (2023) by Jenny Sampson for the Skater Girls Series
Ladies Shred on IG @ladiesshred
Ladies Shred website
Ladies Shred Article in the Marin IJ
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